Plasmonic Imaging of Electrochemical Reactions of Single Nanoparticles

Yimin Fang, Hui Wang, Hui Yu, Xianwei Liu, Wei Wang, Hong Yuan Chen, N. J. Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


ConspectusElectrochemical reactions are involved in many natural phenomena, and are responsible for various applications, including energy conversion and storage, material processing and protection, and chemical detection and analysis. An electrochemical reaction is accompanied by electron transfer between a chemical species and an electrode. For this reason, it has been studied by measuring current, charge, or related electrical quantities. This approach has led to the development of various electrochemical methods, which have played an essential role in the understanding and applications of electrochemistry. While powerful, most of the traditional methods lack spatial and temporal resolutions desired for studying heterogeneous electrochemical reactions on electrode surfaces and in nanoscale materials. To overcome the limitations, scanning probe microscopes have been invented to map local electrochemical reactions with nanometer resolution. Examples include the scanning electrochemical microscope and scanning electrochemical cell microscope, which directly image local electrochemical reaction current using a scanning electrode or pipet. The use of a scanning probe in these microscopes provides high spatial resolution, but at the expense of temporal resolution and throughput.This Account discusses an alternative approach to study electrochemical reactions. Instead of measuring electron transfer electrically, it detects the accompanying changes in the reactant and product concentrations on the electrode surface optically via surface plasmon resonance (SPR). SPR is highly surface sensitive, and it provides quantitative information on the surface concentrations of reactants and products vs time and electrode potential, from which local reaction kinetics can be analyzed and quantified. The plasmonic approach allows imaging of local electrochemical reactions with high temporal resolution and sensitivity, making it attractive for studying electrochemical reactions in biological systems and nanoscale materials with high throughput.The plasmonic approach has two imaging modes: electrochemical current imaging and interfacial impedance imaging. The former images local electrochemical current associated with electrochemical reactions (faradic current), and the latter maps local interfacial impedance, including nonfaradic contributions (e.g., double layer charging). The plasmonic imaging technique can perform voltammetry (cyclic or square wave) in an analogous manner to the traditional electrochemical methods. It can also be integrated with bright field, dark field, and fluorescence imaging capabilities in one optical setup to provide additional capabilities. To date the plasmonic imaging technique has found various applications, including mapping of heterogeneous surface reactions, analysis of trace substances, detection of catalytic reactions, and measurement of graphene quantum capacitance. The plasmonic and other emerging optical imaging techniques (e.g., dark field and fluorescence microscopy), together with the scanning probe-based electrochemical imaging and single nanoparticle analysis techniques, provide new capabilities for one to study single nanoparticle electrochemistry with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions. In this Account, we focus on imaging of electrochemical reactions at single nanoparticles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2614-2624
Number of pages11
JournalAccounts of chemical research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 15 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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